Catching colds and flu during pregnancy is always bad as many of medication that are used otherwise are not safe during pregnancy. But good news is there are plenty of very effective and safe natural remedies for colds and flu during pregnancy.
“Don’t eat these foods”, “Don’t drink alcohol”, “Don’t wear stilettos”, “ Limit your caffeine intake”
When did I hear this?
There is a big list of things that is no-go during pregnancy. What about the medications for flu and cold? When you have an unwanted visitor – agonizing aches and pains, cough and a serious case of the cold – knocking on your door during pregnancy, what can you take?
While there are certain over-the-counter medications you can take when pregnant, there is still a risk to your unborn child associated with it.
Worry not mama, there are several pregnancy safe natural remedies to fight off cold and flu without causing any harm to you or your unborn child.
In this article we will talk about,
What Causes colds and flu during Pregnancy?
Colds are mostly caused by a type of virus known as a rhinovirus. There are hundreds of cold viruses , which is why we get them frequently. It passes form person to person.
On the other hand, flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It spreads mainly via tiny droplets sneezed or coughed onto air by person harboring influenza virus. The virus can cause mild to severe illness and can lead to death(CDC).
When you are pregnant, your immune system does not work at its max potential. While weakened immune system is good for protecting your growing baby from self attack (like in autoimmune disease where immune system starts attacking itself), it can make you more vulnerable to catch cold and flu.
Is it Cold or Flu?
Flu and cold, both spreads and cause infection around the same time of year. Actually, both diseases manifest almost similar symptom, so sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.
The symptoms of cold includes
- sore throat
- runny nose
- body aches
Usually, symptoms of cold comes gradually and is milder than the flu. It starts as a sore throat, that usually goes away after two days leaving behind runny nose and cough. Most people recover with 7-10 days.
The symptoms of Flu includes
- high Fever (usually 101 degrees F to 104 degrees F or higher)
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- Intense muscle or body aches
- fatigue (tiredness)
Usually, flu symptoms are worse than the common cold and comes more suddenly than a cold. Symptoms usually gets worst by second or third day. Fatigue and muscle weakness can last a couple of weeks.
Is it dangerous to have flu during while Pregnant?
During pregnancy, body’s ability to protect you from illness is lowered in order to protect your unborn child from your own immune system. Your heart and lung have to work harder to supply oxygen and blood to you and your baby. Also, because of the pressure from the growing baby, your lungs have to work in a smaller space. This all contributes to making your body more vulnerable to catching cold and flu.
According to CDC (1), pregnant women who gets flu are at higher risk for serious complications specially pneumonia that could require hospitalizations and increase your risk of preterm labor.
Having the flu during pregnancy may also simply make you feel worse. It’s hard to cough productively when your lungs are pushed up by a growing baby. As a result, you may be more prone to pneumonia and dehydration.
No need to be scared mamas, many pregnant women who get the flu have no complications. Only thing is it makes you feel worse and you can’t cough productively!!
Can Catching the flu during pregnancy harm my Baby?
While flu virus does not cross the placenta and infect the baby, it can cause a complication to your baby. A research study published in 2017 , indicated that a higher temperature (usually 101 degrees F to 104 degrees F or higher) specifically in first trimester, has been linked to congenital heart defect, neural tube defects and oral clefts (2,3). That’s why it is important to treat cold and flu as soon as you get it or follow tips below to prevent it at the first place.
This post contains an affiliate links. As an affiliate and Amazon associate, I earn commission on qualified purchase at no extra cost to you.
Home Remedies for Colds and Flu during Pregnancy
Pin me for later!!
There are many effective and safe natural remedies for colds and flu during pregnancy. Here are 9 natural remedies you should know about.
1. Apple cider vinegar
An alkaline environment within body helps fight off most bacterial and viruses. Apple cider vinegar alkalizes the body and helps kill viruses. ACV is safe to consume during pregnancy.
Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm water and drink several times a day. You can gargle diluted ACV to relive sore throat.
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is known for its antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid. Digestion of lauric acid result in substance called monolaurin. Both lauric acid and monolaurin, kills the viruses and other pathogens by destroying lipid coating around the viruses (4).
You can use this coconut oil for cooking or add few spoons over your salad.
Garlic contains compound called allicin, which boost the disease-fighting response of some types of white blood cells in the body when it encounters the viruses that cause the cold or flu (5,6).
To bring out garlic’s immune boosting properties, it needed to be crushed, chewed or sliced (to produce allicin).
Just like garlic, other member of allium family, onions are antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Rich in sulfuric compounds, onion is good at killing bacteria and viruses and relieving the symptoms.
Onions are particularly rich in prebiotics, which help increase the number of friendly bacteria in your gut to build immunity from viruses.
To preserve its healing properties, onion should be eaten raw.
Old folk remedy also calls for putting sliced onion on the bottom of your feet and putting socks on overnight helps fight off cold and flu. However, there is no scientific evidence to support it, but some people swear by it (7).
Lemons are loaded with vitamin C, which supports body’s natural defense mechanism. Lemon juice is reported to decrease the strength of the cold and flu virus in the body. It also helps reduce phlegm.
Add lemon juice to your tea or make hot or cold lemonade with honey to speed up the healing.
Ginger’s health benefit has been touted from ages. Specific compounds in ginger, such as Gingerols and zingerone, specific compound in ginger have been shown to inhibit viral replication and prevent viruses from entering host cells(8).
Anti-viral property of ginger is helpful in fighting off viruses that causes cold and flu. Ginger is also great natural remedy if you are suffering from a heartburn during pregnancy.
You can make a glass of fresh ginger tea with a tablespoon of honey and some fresh lemon to fight off the infection.
Honey is also known to boost the immune system. If you develop a sore throat, taking honey will soothe and help relieve symptoms faster amid it antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
You can take raw unfiltered honey in hot water or by itself or make yourself a honey, lemon, ginger tea.
8. Warm salt water
This simple remedy is perfect to reduce the severity of sore throat and coughing.
As soon as you feel something in your throat, start gargling your mouth with warm salt water several times a day to relieve sore throat. Or you can use it with a neti pot for congestion.
9. Home made Chicken soup
Easy to digest, feel good, rich in nutrients and vitamins, chicken soup provides much-needed hydration and help ease the symptoms of cold and flu effectively (9).
What to do when you feel the flu coming on?
Here is what you should do if you feel the flu coming on,
Stay home and get plenty of rest: When you feel the flu coming on, stay home and get plenty of much-needed rest, while your body battles the virus
Drink lots of fluid: Staying hydrated is more important in pregnancy. Make sure to get more liquids – fresh fruit juice, unsweetened drinks, coconut water, broth-based soups or plain water. Staying hydrated keeps your respiratory tract open by turning thick mucus into a thin liquid you can cough up and spit out rather than building up in your lung.
Use the humidifier: Turn on the mist humidifier if air in your house is dry. It can help moisten the air to help ease congestion and coughs. Make sure to keep device clean to prevent the growth of mold.
Eat Vitamin C rich food: Try all kind of citrus fruits -oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, tomatoes, pineapple, strawberries, mango and leafy green vegetable – broccoli, red cabbage and spinach to boost your immune system naturally.
Zinc rich food: Pregnant women should aim to get 11-15 milligrams of zinc from sources including your prenatal vitamins to boost your immune system. Include yogurt, wheat germ, oatmeal, turkey, beef, pork in your diet.
Eat Honey: Eat couple of teaspoons straight or mix it with hot lemon water and drink it few times a day. It helps suppress the dry cough that often comes with cold or flu.
Avoid eating nutrient poor foods such as white sugar and flour.
Careful taking supplements: Continue taking prenatal vitamin, which contains vitamin c and zinc, when you are fighting a cold or flu. Do not take other supplements without your doctor’s approval as it can cause more harm than good.
Try reflexology: Several pressure points on foot and hand can be massaged and worked over for relieving symptoms associated with cold and flu. Check out this video where Michelle shows some pressure points on feet and hand that can be messaged to help relieve cold and flu symptoms.
Since high fever because of the flu is harmful for you and your baby, you need to take a step to reduce it,
- Take a fever-reducing medication (acetaminophen is the safest bet and should be taken at lowest possible dose and only when needed) see below for the medications you should avoid)
- Keep yourself hydrated will cool beverages
- Try a lukewarm bath or shower
- Cold sponging on forehead, armpit and belly to cool body
- Keep clothing loose and bed covers light
If you’re suffering from flu symptoms, it’s important to call your practitioner immediately.
Is it Safe to take Medications during Pregnancy?
While many of medications that you used to take pre-pregnancy is off limit now, there are still few over-the-counter medications that are safe to take during pregnancy. But be cautious, check the label and ensure that you are taking only the medications you need to treat the symptoms.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Most government agencies recommend taking Tylenol to reduce fever, body aches and is mostly considered safe to take during pregnancy. However, one study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology has shown that pregnant women who took Tylenol during pregnancy are more likely to have children with hyperactivity and impulsive behavior (10).
Does it mean that pregnant women shouldn’t take Tylenol during pregnancy?
“No,” according to David Olson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and physiology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, there are several limitations to this study.
“The effects were observed in women who were less well-educated, smoked during pregnancy and had chronic illnesses or fever that was not explained. There was also no description of the other medications these women were taking—and if they were taking acetaminophen during pregnancy, there is a likelihood they may have been taking other drugs, so there might be a confounding effect.”
Don’t panic, you should take a Tylenol if you need to when pregnant, but this study should be taken as a warning to watch the acetaminophen intake during pregnancy. Only take the medication when you really need it and rely on natural remedy as much as you can.
Anti-viral drug: CDC recommend Tamiflu and Relenza as a safe anti-viral drug to take during pregnancy. However, both drugs are designated as “Pregnancy Category C”, by FDA which means that they have not been studied in pregnant women so there are no evidence to show that they are harmful or safe during pregnancy.
It is true that these drugs are not studied in pregnant women as a randomized controlled trial, but CDC believes that the risk of influenza for pregnant women are serious and benefit of antiviral use outweigh the potential for risks from the drugs.
It is unfortunate to contract flu during pregnancy, but if you do, consult your doctor immediately. Antiviral therapy is most beneficial if started within 48 hours after onset of symptoms.
Medication to avoid during Pregnancy
Some of the medications that are used to treat the flu are off the table for pregnant mamas as they may cause harm to the unborn baby. These include:
- Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil)
- Decongestants like Claritin-D, Sudafed or DayQuil
- Nonsteroidal nasal decongestant sprays containing oxymetazoline (like Afrin)
- Do not take supplements like zinc and vitamin C or Elderberry and Echinacea without consulting your doctor.
How to Prevent cold and flu when Pregnant?
Healthy lifestyle is key to boosting immune system that intern prevent you from catching cold and flu. Many natural remedies listed above to fight colds and flu are also great for preventing it. Here are few suggestions.
Eat healthy diet: Include lots of green leafy vegetable, fruits, protein and healthy fats in your diet. Avoid eating white sugar.
Exercise: Including daily moderate exercise in your lifestyle is good for your pregnancy and immune system.
Sleep well: Getting enough good quality sleep is very important to keep you healthy and function well throughout the day. A healthy immune system function well to ward of infection.
Hygiene: Wash your hand with soap and water before each meal and avoid touching your face. Keep witch hazel hand sanitizer with you when you don’t have access to water.
Lover stress level: Stressed people are more susceptible to infection because of constant release of the hormone cortisol suppressing the immune system. Practice yoga or meditation to relieve stress.
Check your vitamin D level: Vitamin D helps immune systems stay balanced during the cold and flu. Many of us are vitamin D deficient, specially those who lives in places with cold winters. Get your vitamin D level checked and if recommended by your doctor start taking vitamin D supplements
Take Probiotics : help boost your immune system.
Catching colds and flu while pregnant is the worst. If you are one of those mom-to-be, keep yourself hydrated, drink plenty of warm ginger tea with lemon and honey and get lots of rest. You will be better in no time and if you have a high fever, it is always a good idea to talk to your doctor.
How about You?
Have you ever had colds or flu during pregnancy? What helped you get better? Please comment below!!
- Pregnant women and influenza (flu).
- Hutson MR, Keyte AL, Hernández-Morales M, Gibbs E, Kupchinsky ZA, Argyridis I,Erwin KN, Pegram K, Kneifel M, Rosenberg PB, Matak P, Xie L, Grandl J, Davis EE, Katsanis N, Liu C, Benner EJ. Temperature-activated ion channels in neural crest cells confer maternal fever-associated birth defects. Sci Signal. 2017 Oct10;10(500). pii: eaal4055. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.aal4055. PubMed PMID: 29018170; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6502643.
- Waller DK, Hashmi SS, Hoyt AT, Duong HT, Tinker SC, Gallaway MS, Olney RS,Finnell RH, Hecht JT, Canfield MA; National Birth Defects Prevention Study.Maternal report of fever from cold or flu during early pregnancy and the risk for noncardiac birth defects, National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997-2011.Birth Defects Res. 2018 Mar 1;110(4):342-351. doi: 10.1002/bdr2.1147. Epub 2017Nov 2. PubMed PMID: 29094488; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5831519.
- Kabara, J. J., Swieczkowski, D. M., Conley, A. J., & Truant, J. P. (1972). Fatty acids and derivatives as antimicrobial agents. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy, 2(1), 23–28. https://doi.org/10.1128/aac.2.1.23
- Arreola R, Quintero-Fabián S, López-Roa RI, Flores-Gutiérrez EO, Reyes-GrajedaJP, Carrera-Quintanar L, Ortuño-Sahagún D. Immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic compounds. J Immunol Res. 2015;2015:401630. doi:10.1155/2015/401630. Epub 2015 Apr 19. Review. PubMed PMID: 25961060; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4417560.
- Nantz MP, Rowe CA, Muller CE, Creasy RA, Stanilka JM, Percival SS.Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and γδ-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind,placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clin Nutr. 2012 Jun;31(3):337-44. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2011.11.019. Epub 2012 Jan 24. PubMed PMID: 22280901.
- Arora, R., Chawla, R., Marwah, R., Arora, P., Sharma, R. K., Kaushik, V., Goel, R., Kaur, A., Silambarasan, M., Tripathi, R. P., & Bhardwaj, J. R. (2011). Potential of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Preventive Management of Novel H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) Pandemic: Thwarting Potential Disasters in the Bud. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2011, 586506. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/586506
- Mao QQ, Xu XY, Cao SY, et al. Bioactive Compounds and Bioactivities of Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe). Foods. 2019;8(6):185. Published 2019 May 30. doi:10.3390/foods8060185
- Rennard, B. O., Ertl, R. F., Gossman, G. L., Robbins, R. A., & Rennard, S. I. (2000, October). Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro [Abstract]. Chest, 118(4), 1150-1157
- Claudia B Avella-Garcia, Jordi Julvez, Joan Fortuny, Cristina Rebordosa, Raquel García-Esteban, Isolina Riaño Galán, Adonina Tardón, Clara L Rodríguez-Bernal, Carmen Iñiguez, Ainara Andiarena, Loreto Santa-Marina, Jordi Sunyer, Acetaminophen use in pregnancy and neurodevelopment: attention function and autism spectrum symptoms, International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 45, Issue 6, December 2016, Pages 1987–1996.